A photograph of a mother and her young daughter embracing has been removed from a gallery exhibition in Paris after seven anonymous letters prompted the gallerist and the director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) to censor the work.
The photograph in question, titled “Mother and Daughter II” (2014), is a composite of four images showing the artist, Diane Ducruet, cuddling with her daughter. Both of them are nude. It was to be featured in L’intime comme illusion (The Intimate as Illusion), an exhibition that is part of Le Mois de la Photo, an annual, monthlong, city-wide photography festival in Paris. One of the festival’s themes this year, selected by MEP’s and Le Mois de la Photo’s director Jean-Luc Monterosso, is intimacy. Ducruet’s piece was removed from the exhibition at Galerie Catherine Houard on October 30, before the exhibition’s opening reception, rue89 reported.
The letters of protest directed at Monterosso, Houard, Ducruet, and the exhibition’s curator, Françoise Paviot, found fault not with “Mother and Daughter II,” but with another photo from the same series that appeared in a flyer for the show. That image shows Ducruet and her daughter in a three-quarters portrait, kissing playfully; anonymous complaints suggested it might incite incest or even pedophilia, according to Le Monde. “Please remove this photo, which has nothing of an act of love!!! Please on behalf of victims of incest (of which I am one) and the groups that represent them,” read one letter. Although the offending image was not actually included in the show, the objections prompted Monterosso and Houard to remove “Mother and Daughter II” instead.
“I still don’t understand how a gallerist and the director of an institution that is supposed to promote artists’ work could have, without even the slightest threat, on simple anonymous requests, and without really knowing my past and current work, decided to remove my work,” Ducruet told rue89.
In a blog post about the situation, photographer Marie Docher, who helped conceive of the exhibition and whose work is featured in it, offers a timeline of the events leading up to the removal of Ducruet’s work. Addressing Monterosso, she writes:
Seven people decided, without knowing the work, to censor it and to prevent Diane Ducruet from showing it. You who defend photographers, there is still time to prove it by exhibiting the censored work at the MEP, prominently, during the entire Mois de la Photo festival, and while explaining clearly why you are doing it. We are persuaded that you care about defending freedom of expression and freedom to work.
Ducruet will be meeting with Monterosso on November 7, she told Hyperallergic via email.